How to transform an awkward hallway into a beautiful cozy reading nook

I love my Dream Homies Facebook group, I get to help offer advice on interesting spaces that I would never have the opportunity to see otherwise. And Paola’s hallway is no exception!

Here’s what Paola threw out to the Homies looking for help with….

“Looking for ideas to decorate my hallway. It is long and narrow 😥 What kind of furniture and where exactly. Thanks a lot for your ideas!”

Hallway Floor plan Hallway Floor plan Hallway Floor plan

First things, first, yes THIS is the hallway! Pretty cool, right?

The interesting this about this space is that while there’s a fireplace, it’s really not the ideal focal point, for an entryway I always want there to be focal point with a wow factor when you first walk in. In this case, the focal point should be the wall on the other side.

As far as hallways are concerned this is definitely not narrow! What I envision for this space is a cozy reading nook, or a place where people might sit and chat if you’re hosting a party (this is of course without having any additional information about the rest of your home).

Let’s tackle this space step by step, starting with the floor plan.

Floor plan

Keep in mind I don’t have any measurements, so I’ve drawn this floor plan out by eye. I want to keep the long wall free of furniture, in order to maintain the flow from the entryway to the kitchen area. That said, having no furniture in front of the fireplace would feel awkward, plus it’s always nice to have some seating in front of the fireplace so you can enjoy it. The thing with this floor plan though, is that you want to keep sight lines open, so we’ll accomplish this by adding a bench or ottoman in front of the fireplace.

Art Placement

  1. Large statement art on the back wall. Normally, I’m all about statement art above the fireplace, but in this case I would suggest moving the amazing piece of art that is currently above the fireplace to the focal point wall.
  2. Add a row of art on the long wall. I suggest about four frames all in the same size. This helps draw your eye throughout the space.
  3. Hang a round mirror above the fireplace. Now that we’ve added five pieces of art throughout the space, another one above the fireplace would be overkill. Every room should have something shiny, so I suggest a mirror above the fireplace. A round mirror is a nice opportunity to break up all the rectangles and squares you see throughout with the art, fireplace and windows.

Decor, Lighting and Accessories

Decorating is a key part of making the space feel polished, but it’s also an opportunity to camouflage certain architectural elements.

  1. Large vases on the fireplace. I would remove all the small decor objects on the fireplace and minimize. The fireplace is quite deep and when you first walk in you’ll be seeing only the side. Aim to have only a couple of large vases on the fireplace and nothing more. This will streamline things and ensure that what you see walking in is a well-considered vignette, that doesn’t feel messy.
  2. Add a tall plant beside the fireplace. Again, because the fireplace is so deep, I would want to break up that surface with a plant, this way your eye isn’t drawing to the large blank surface.
  3. Upgrade the light fixtures and add some lighting on a human level. I noticed there seems to be two light fixtures here, which is totally fine, I would suggest finding some new fixtures to replace those, or, what I would do is find one statement light fixture and remove the second. I would also find a floor lamp with a shade to go beside the far chair, this helps layer in more lighting, while adding some height. Don’t be afraid to have the light and chair layering the art. People tend to try to hang art so it’s clear of furniture and other items, but this is a no-no. Layering is good, homie!
  4. Add a few throw pillows. This one is obvious, find some nice throw pillows to keep the space feeling colourful and happy!
  5. You can consider layering a small rug over your carpet. This helps define and ground the space, and of course add some colour, pattern and texture. Lastly, I would consider a throw on the bench to break it up a bit as well.

So there you have it, my suggestions on how to transform your entryway into a wow-worthy space!


California Shutters aren’t always the answer

Anne, a member of my Facebook group Dream Homies, asks…

I thought I’d finished painting this room but I’m not loving the white doors. I was considering painting the doors, trim and baseboards the same colour as the wall to make them less noticeable. The California Shutters would still be white. Thoughts? Alternate ideas?

My response…

Ok homie, let me start by saying I LOVE that paint colour. It’s bold, it’s rich and it’s ah-mah-zing! So a big huge homie high-five to that choice.

I used to really love California shutters, and in the right space I still think they can be great. But I think people over-use them, often in the wrong places. They can feel really bulky, and uninviting. And in this specific case the details of the blinds (the horizontal lines) compete with the fireplace details, which should be the main focal point here. Not to mention it’s created these huge rectangular white squares which really draws your eye in. Which, I suspect, is what prompted this question in the first place.

I like the idea of painting the trim the same colour as the wall, just ensure you select a semi-gloss finish, but I would take it one step further with one of these three ideas:

1. Remove the shutters and leave the windows open.

This option is my first choice, because it keeps the space feeling clean, open and allows more natural light in. Which is always a good thing!

In this inspiration photo, I love how the windows open up the space, making it feel bright, airy and modern.
[ Source: Apartment Therapy ] 

Another example of a fireplace with open windows beside it. Nice and clean!
[ Source: ] 

Here’s my super quick photoshop job to show how this could look. This looks amazing if I do say so myself!

2. Remove the shutters and frost the windows.

I can appreciate the fact that privacy might be a concern with the first option, in which case I would still remove the shutters, but I would also frost the windows. This will give you the same look, still letting lots of light in, with the added privacy needed.

Frosted windows on French doors!

Home Depot sells Privacy Window Film, which is an affordable option to frost your windows.

2. Remove the shutters and hang roman shades.

Another options to add more softness to the space is to consider Roman shades. This can add the privacy as well as a subtle colour and or pattern to the doors. I recommend a very light sheer fabric, that still allows light to enter the room.

Roman shades are a great way to add privacy and add a beautiful softness to the doors!
[ Source: My Domaine ]

Love how these french doors have simple, but functional shades to help with privacy issues!
[ Source: Decor Pad ]

I’m not actually sure what I would do without photoshop in my life! This makes the space feel a little more traditional, provides the option for privacy without overpowering the wall.

So here you have it, three ways to really make your focal point wall all about that fireplace!

I got eager and needed to see some art on the mantel so I found a statement piece and threw it on to get the effect. I can’t wait to see it all come together, Anne!

Art: Minted


Create a fireplace focal point with a ‘less is more’ philosophy

Interior Design Question - Ask Michelle

Sheila, a member of my Facebook group Dream Homies, asks…

We moved into our house less than a year ago and haven’t done much in terms of decorating other than unpacking and putting what worked in our old home in various places. Now, we’re about to paint and I’m ready to get things decorated to our taste and make this our home. We have a fireplace that is rather large. The mantle and surround is not exactly our taste, but we’re going to live with it for now. My problem is that this side of the living room feels plain and I need to make it the feature of the room. We are about to paint the whole house, going from a terrible yellowish builder’s beige to a much nicer gray. Above the fireplace and mantel will also be redecorated. 🙂 Here is what I’m considering:

  1. Leave the walls the same color as the rest of the walls and add light/airy curtains to the windows. I’m afraid this will be too heavy with the small space around the windows and take away from the window molding.
  2. Paint the walls above and on the sides of the fireplace an accent color to add interest. Maybe a darker color. Add fabric roller shades or bamboo shades to replace the white plantation blinds to add interest to the windows without adding significant weight and making it seem cramped.
  3. Paint the walls above and on the sides of the fireplace and around the windows, so that whole side of the room is an accent wall.
  4. Do some sort of trim treatment from the mantel to the ceiling, like some sort of board and batten look that would painted to match the mantel/trim color.

Sorry for the terrible lighting… 🙂 I would appreciate any of your thoughts!


My response…

First things first, huge congrats on the new house, and I’m excited that you’re going to start making it home by decorating! I always suggest taking time to “get to know your home”, and it sounds like you’ve done just that. So you’re off to a great start!

Before I get into my suggestions and recommendations for your fireplace and mantel, I do suggest downloading my guide to ‘Jumpstart your Decorating Project‘. There are 5 steps I recommend taking before jumping in, these will help you avoid costly mistakes.

Ok, now that I’ve gotten that out of the way! Here are my responses to your considerations…

  1. I agree, curtains will be too heavy and will take away from the fireplace. And I also think you should show off your molding!
  2. I wouldn’t do a painted accent wall here, the fireplace and windows are pretty tight to each other, and I don’t see enough wall surface to do this effectively. It’s always nice to have something that allows you’re eye to rest, you’ve got a lot going on with the architecture here, I wouldn’t add any more with colour. You can create a feature with the fireplace without having to go the accent wall route. But I agree with you on the shades ideas, more on that later!
  3. Still no to the accent wall, for the same reasons already outlined.
  4. While I do really like trim treatment and the board and batten look, I wouldn’t do that here because there isn’t enough flat wall surface on the side of the fireplace to contrast the details. As discussed in #2, allowing your eye to rest is important.

Ok, so now that I have basically poo-pooed your ideas (I’m sorry!), here’s my suggestions on what I would do…in this case I really think less is more.

1. Find art that wows.

I would select art for the mantel that packs some serious punch! Try to find a piece that has three colours in it, you can than infuse those colours into the fabric and accessories throughout the space. In the art I selected, there are really only two main colours, but I felt that the impact of the blue would work really well, and decided I would select fabric with at least three colours in it.


2. Select amazing fabric for the windows.

I would definitely go the roman shade route, I suggest selecting your fabric and having a relaxed roman shade custom-made. I realize this will be more expensive, but you’ll be able to create the exact look and impact you want. Be sure that the fabric is not overpowering the art, the art should be the focal point and the roman shades will play a supporting role.


3. Find simple accessories for the mantel.

Select one large vase and a smaller vase with some flowers to add colour. You want the mantel to be mostly about the art, so the vase and flowers are also just playing a supporting role on the mantel (I’m really hammering home the movie references in this post!)


4. Add a throw pillow to the chair.

The key here is to not get too matchy-matchy with the fabric. Instead select a fabric that incorporates similar colours, but adds a new pattern. Make sure the pattern is either LARGER in scale or SMALLER in scale. If you can’t tell, squint your eyes and if you can’t see a difference, then the scales aren’t different enough.


I photoshopped all the elements together to show you how it could look, it’ll obviously be even better after you paint your space the new grey colour.


I hope this helps, be sure to send an after photo once you’ve finished the space!

Art  |  Roman shades fabric  |  Throw pillow |  Vase


Become a Dream Homie by joining my Facebook group a new community to share ideas, ask for advice on your decor dilemmas and collaborate with people who are hell-bent on creating their dream home!


How to style shelves without it looking cluttered or messy

How to style a shelf

Jenn, a member of my Facebook group Dream Homies, asks…

How do you properly style a shelf so that it doesn’t look like a hot mess or cluttered?

My response…

Hi Jenn,
Thanks for your question! Some people suggest painting your bookcase white, I do love a white backdrop, but it’s not absolutely necessary, but an option to consider! The biggest thing here is to take the time and to keep playing (step 3, edit, edit, edit!!!).

1. Purge and Collect

In this step you’re going to remove everything from your shelf. Since you’ve asked about how to not make it look a “hot mess or cluttered” I assume that the shelf is in an area that matters and needs to look nice (as well as be functional). Go through all your books and make two piles. Pile one is “books that are worthy of having on the shelves” and pile two is “books that are less worthy”. Aka, weird topic books you don’t want your friends and family seeing (that Kama sutra book you bought on a whim to spice up your love life, hahaha jokes). Either donate the “not so worthy” books or move them somewhere else, like the basement.

A perfectly styled shelf includes more than just books, so gather accessories and smaller art (should be about an inch or two shorter than the shelf height) from around your home if you can. Be sure to find things that vary in size! Try to avoid anything smaller than an apple though, ’cause that starts to look “a hot mess”.

2. Divide and Conquer

Decide how you want to group your books, you can group by colour, size or alphabetical for the OCD types. From here you can distribute the books evenly amongst your shelves. Keep it interesting by stacking some books horizontally. You can place an accessory on top of the books you lie horizontally.

Next I like to lean art on the shelves, don’t go too crazy, maybe two to three vignettes that include art. Try to find a few different sized options for art and again, distribute it throughout the shelves evenly. Layer smaller frames in front of larger frames. Layering is key with book shelves!

Grab the larger accessories and distribute those evenly throughout similar to the art and consider placing in front of art or books. Then you’ll take the smaller elements and place it throughout, layering as you go.

3. Edit, Edit, Edit

The reality is, you’re not going to nail it on the first go. Place things, take a step back, squick your eyes to check for balance (not sure what it is about squinting but it helps see the balance a bit better). And keep playing. If you need help you can always search Pinterest for ideas!


Selecting patterns and colour in a open concept space

title Design by Studio-McGee

My Dream Homie, Alison asks…

How do I mix fabrics and textiles in a open concept space? I find I keep picking the same colours and there’s no contrast. Realized every thing I own is either blue or grey.

My response…

Hi Alison,
This is a great question, the best thing to do is start with an inspiration piece. It can be anything; a rug, art or a throw. Just make sure it has at least three colours in it. In an open concept you can create cohesiveness by changing up the ratios of colours in the different areas, this is called the 60-30-10 rule. For example, in your living room you might do 60% blue, 30% red and 10% green, but in your dining room you’ll change up the ratio and do 10% red and 30% blue and 60% green.

When mixing fabrics be sure that the patterns scale are different from each other! Select a small, medium and large pattern. If you aren’t sure the patterns are different enough? Squint your eyes and if you can tell the difference you’re good to go!

Adding different textures is also a great idea, you can incorporate textures with rugs (example: a jute rug), baskets and throws!